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Odia scientist Dr Swati Nayak selected for prestigious Norman Borlaug Field Award, 2023

Bhubaneswar:20/9/23:  Dr Swati Nayak, the recipient of prestigious Norman Borlaug Field Award, 2023. The announcement was made yesterday, 19 September, by the World Food Prize Foundation ( Iowa, USA). The award is given to exceptional scientists under 40 years of age who work in the field of food and nutrition security, and hunger eradication and exhibit the character and attributes of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Green Revolution’s Chief Architect Dr Norman Borlaug.

She will be conferred the honour and the award in the week of October 22nd – 28th at IOWA , USA, where various mega events happening on the eve of World Food Prize Week and International Borlaug Dialogue. She will be the third Indian and first Odia to receive this prestigious award at USA and is recognized for her innovative approach to engaging smallholder farmers in demand-driven rice seed systems, from testing and deployment to equitable access and adoption of climate-resilient and nutritious rice varieties.
About Dr. Swati Nayak

Dr. Swati Nayak, Scientist and South Asia Lead for Seed System and Product Management at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has been named the 2023 recipient of the Norman E. Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation. She is recognized for her innovative approach to engaging smallholder farmers in demand-driven rice seed systems, from testing and deployment to equitable access and adoption of climate-resilient and nutritious rice varieties.

From the beginning of her career, Nayak has dedicated herself to closing the gap between scientific knowledge and its practical applications for farmers. Upon graduating in 2010 with her Masters from the Institute of Rural Management Anand, she started working as the only woman administrator at the Integrated Tribal Development Agency in the remote forest region of Andhra Pradesh, India. Though she could have chosen an easier path, she was determined to work hands-on in the field, immersed in farming communities.

Her grassroots experience paved the way for her to be appointed to head the first-ever dedicated Indian government initiative for women farmers. She was a central member of the team which crafted a comprehensive blueprint for the program, collaborating with more than 10 Indian states to establish a national program from scratch. Her work laid the foundation for the still flourishing program to benefit four million women farmers to date.

Nayak joined IRRI in 2013, where she has provided pivotal leadership in numerous global flagship programs on rice and rice-based food systems. She is the current lead for cereal seed systems under the key initiative SeedEqual of CGIAR, a worldwide research partnership focused on agricultural food systems.

With unwavering perseverance, she spearheaded groundbreaking research initiatives, led multidisciplinary teams, and forged collaborations with local communities, academia, students, and stakeholders. Together with her team, she created innovative, participatory solutions to the daunting challenge of feeding and nourishing a rapidly growing global population amid climate change, through the rapid scaling up of improved rice varieties, seed systems innovations, and climate-smart technologies around the world.

In that effort, Nayak has organized more than 10,000 extensive on-farm trials for more than 500 rice varieties, working with thousands of smallholder farmers across diverse ecosystems in different countries across Asia and Africa. She was central to the massive effort toward the successful dissemination and adoption of more than 20 promising climate-resilient and biofortified rice varieties. This process has empowered farmers, women, and men, to maximize their yields, minimize their environmental footprint, and secure their economic future.

Nayak has heavily involved women in her work, particularly in evaluating and collecting critical feedback on new rice varieties. In the process, she trained numerous women groups in South Asia in varietal selection, seed production, marketing, and business development. She has contributed to the establishment of numerous seed production businesses led by women and smallholder farmers.

In 2021, through Nayak’s efforts, women-led seed enterprises were able to produce, distribute, and sell approximately 8.5 metric tons of quality seeds. More than 40% of the participants in her programs, whether on-farm testing of varieties, demonstration plots, participatory rice variety evaluation, or seed production, have been women farmers. Nayak’s research results not only in productivity increases, but also increases in income, decision-making authority, and overall empowerment of women.

Resilience to climate change is also a central part of Nayak’s advocacy for sustainable agriculture. Many climate-resilient rice varieties have been successfully deployed in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal through her diligent strategy, partnerships, and unique positioning models. According to projections, by 2022, 1 million hectares would be planted in India with flood-, drought-, and salt-tolerant rice varieties.

In one case, Nayak and her team formulated a strategy for introducing the drought-tolerant rice variety Shahabhagi Dhan in Odisha, India. The variety soon became an integral element of every farm family’s diet and crop rotation. Years later, Sahabhagi Dhan remains one of the most in-demand products in Odisha and the rest of India. Nayak is fondly referred to by the local communities with whom she has worked as “Bihana Didi,” meaning “Seed Lady.”

Furthermore, she has played a catalytic role in nurturing regional collaboration through the “Seed Without Borders” policy agreement, which speeds the dissemination of modern rice varieties across South and Southeast Asia. Her instrumental involvement in introducing promising novel rice varieties from Bangladesh to India and beyond has transcended geographical boundaries, ensuring that research innovations swiftly reach the hands of farmers across nationalities.

In an award that celebrates field science, Nayak is fittingly honored as a champion of inclusive agricultural extension and technology transfer, critical for equitably bridging the gap between scientific advancements and tangible benefits on farmers’ fields. She promotes rural innovation models that emphasize sustainable agricultural technologies and enterprise development. Her adept leadership in validating and scaling participatory field research and extension models has garnered broad acclaim and has been widely replicated by national institutions. She is a pioneer in extension and field research, as well as an inspiration to the many people, especially women, following her lead.

Nayak received a Ph.D. in Competitive Intelligence & Strategic Management for Agricultural Extension Management Strategy at Amity University (2017-2022), a Master in Rural Management at the Institute of Rural Management Anand (2008-2010) and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University (2003-2007).

“Congratulate Odia scientist Dr Swati Nayak on receiving the prestigious Norman Borlaug Field Award, 2023. Her outstanding contribution in the field of agriculture and food production will inspire young scientists from across the world. Wish her all the best in future endeavors,” said the CM on his X handle

 About Norman Borlaug Field Award
 The Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, is presented every October in Des Moines, Iowa, by the World Food Prize Foundation.

This $10,000 award recognizes exceptional, science-based achievement in international agriculture and food production by an individual under the age of 40. Awardees emulate the same intellectual courage, stamina, and determination in the fight to eliminate global hunger and poverty demonstrated by Dr. Norman Borlaug as a young scientist working in Mexico in the 1940s and ’50s.

Dr. Judith Rodin, former President of The Rockefeller Foundation, announced during the 25th World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony in 2011 that her Foundation would commit $1 million to endow this annual award in honor of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, whose early work in Mexico was supported by The Rockefeller Foundation.

The award diploma incorporates the image of Dr. Borlaug at work in the fields of Mexico, as shown on the left. The image was created by artist John Collier and hangs as a tapestry in the Hall of Laureates.

The award presentation is appropriately held in the historically preserved and environmentally renovated World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. This $29.8 million project restored the century-old Des Moines Public Library and transformed it as a special tribute to Nobel Peace Prize winner and World Food Prize founder Dr. Borlaug.

The individuals chosen to be recipients of the Borlaug Field Award are selected by an anonymous international jury, chaired by Dr. W. Ronnie Coffman of Cornell University. Dr. Coffman, who was Dr. Borlaug’s only doctorate student, serves as a member of the World Food Prize Council of Advisors.

About Editor in chief

Ashok Palit has completed his graduation from Upendranath College Soro, Balasore and post graduation from Utkal University in Odia Language and literture.. He has also carved out a niche for himself as a scribe of eminence after joining the profession in 1988. He is also an independent media production professional. He brings loads of experience to Advanced Media, Ashok Palit as a cineaste has been active in film criticism for over three decades. As a film society activist, he soared to eminence for his profound commitment to the art film appreciation and aesthetics of cinema. His mode of discourse is often erudite but always lucid and comprehensible marked by a perfect acumen so rare in the field. A film aesthete with an immense fond of critical sensibilities, he wrote about growth and development of odia cinema in New Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Screen. He has been working as an Editor for Cine Samaya from 2002-2004.. He had made solid contribution on cinema in many odia Dailies and weekly such as Samaj, Prajatantra, Dharatri, Samaya, Satabadi, and weekly Samaya.

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